Sometimes I go to Blockbuster and am pleasantly surprised by a movie I know nothing about. The other day I had that experience as I rented and watched the movie Snow Angels. Snow Angels is a movie based on the book by Stewart O’Nan. The movie features Sam Rockwell, Kate Beckinsale, and Michael Angarano. Rockwell and Beckinsale portray a recently separated couple, Glen and Annie, who were high school sweethearts. While, Angarano plays a teenager, Arthur, who used to be baby-sat by Annie.
Snow Angels provides a look at relationships in all of their stages. The movie explores the love of a young couple discovering the splendor of ‘first love,’ while exploring the other spectrum of a bitter couple trying to remember why they loved each other.
Snow Angels isn’t a feel good story. It is a sobering story of tragedy, lost innocence, fractured relationships and unrealized hopes. But one aspect of this movie that is extremely fascinating is the character, Glenn, played by Sam Rockwell.
Glenn is a born-again believer who is trying to pick up the pieces of his life in order to reconcile the relationship with Annie and his daughter. He often quotes or paraphrases scripture, he prays with his daughter and at times has spiritual discussions with his boss who also is a believer.
But Glenn’s faith isn’t portrayed one-dimensionally and free from struggle and failure. Glenn gets mad and curses, fights, falls back into old addictive behaviors and ultimately comes to a place where he has lost all hope.
Perhaps some people who see Glenn’s character are going to have a problem believing that he is a Christian. At times his behavior can seem erratic and contradictory. Glenn is flawed. His faith is young, immature and messy. But must a Christian character live a perfectly moral life in order to be seen as a Christan by the audience?On his blog, L. B. Graham (a Christian fiction writer) comments on the importance of incorporating flawed heroes within Christian fiction:
I’m constantly surprised at how often fictional stories are judged to be Christian or not, based more or less on how well the characters behave themselves. Of course it is true that morality matters – God has taken great care to expound in some detail the moral laws which flow from and are an extension of His own character. It is also true, though, that the Bible itself is full of flawed men and women whom God used almost despite of rather than because of their moral triumphs. However, when Christian writers incorporate flawed heroes into their stories, men and women with moral failings of any significance, they are often left open to charges of having given dubious testimony to their Lord.
I am more inclined to empathize and identify with a character like Glenn then a morally perfect and sanitized “Christian” character.
Even with all of his flaws and failures, I appreciated watching Glenn throughout the movie. When watching Glenn’s character I was reminded of Robert Duvall’s Sonny in The Apostle. Sonny, like Glen, was a paradox of genuine faith and unbridled anger and jealousy.
The Christian faith isn’t simple, clean and neat. Doesn’t the Bible portray just the same complexity of faith in the men and women we read about throughout all the Scriptures? Take David for example. David was a man after God’s own heart. And yet this man of faith became entangled in adultery and murder.
Hear me clearly, I am not suggesting that characters in film and literture like Glenn are models for our faith. Glenn’s character is descriptive (reminding me of my own struggles and the complexity of my faith) rather than being prescriptive (showing me how to live).
Christians in film or literature don’t need to be portrayed like angels in order to validate the authenticity of their faith. At times they may appear to us like “fallen” angels.